Life around the world has changed as a result of a small virus. In fact, the world is on lockdown. The multinational news outlets on a 24-hourly basis are limited to doing health, economic, social, psychological and political angles of the novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
The cliché that is making the rounds is that ‘we are not in normal times.’ This vividly describes the global situation we are in now.
Millions of people are on lockdown. Hospitals are full or approaching full capacity. The availability of essential drugs and equipment inadequate, while uncertainty is sweeping the globe.
Scientists and researchers around the world are racing to gain a better understanding of the coronavirus (COVID-19) 2019 disease. Science, facts and centrally spirituality are critical at this time. Some Pastors, Islamic Sheikhs, herbalists are exploring the other side of the coin for remedies but to no avail.
Confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have risen sharply and spanned the globe.
Worldometer’s algorithms have recorded more than 799,000 COVID-19 cases and over 38,000 deaths as of 2:18 PM GMT March 31, 2020.
Clearly, USA, Italy, Spain , China and Germany are the top five hardest-hit countries so far and cases are manifesting exponentially and confounding global economies. Businesses locally and internationally, in all sectors are being affected. There is chaos and insecurity everywhere resulting from the pinch of this notorious COVID-19.
The speed with which the COVID-19 outbreak has moved from epidemic to pandemic is being touted as unprecedented in modern times.
The term lockdown, whether totally or partially is synonymous with COVID-19. Should it be based on geo-targeting or location, isolated targeting, or, what, becomes some of the strategies that are being rolled-out. But the question is will this yield the expected results?
Is the world exploring the use of IT to combat the COVID-19? Can going virtual resolve much of the problems brought about by the virus to assuage its effects?
Social Distancing and COVID-19
One of the antidotes to check the spread of the virus is maintaining social distance now that the World Health Organisation (WHO) states the virus could be spread by air.
How are people observing the social distance protocol, on say, commercial vehicles, Bajaj (Mahama Mahama Candoo), taxis, market places, shopping malls, use of Okadas and the likes. There’s another protocol, self-isolation and quarantine, will these help to mitigate spread or compound the crisis?
What about the legal tender, the Cedi, can WHO or Noguchi Memorial Institute quickly run some test on the money? Then comes the ATM machines, Ezwich machines, hairdressing /barbers salons? Huh, I was in a popular mall in Ho and the protocols on social distancing was not being observed, some Banks inclusive. I saw a social media post of similar incident in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the payment area at a mall was ‘floor marked’ for clients to create the needed space between buyers to avoid crowding.
Another viral social media post shows pedestrians touching a particular pillar on a street carelessly as they navigated the pathway by habitually touching the said pillar as evidenced by the video. Such objects could defeat the social distance measures and become the reservoir for new infections. We do these regularly, absent-mindedly.
Indeed, medical supply shortages is confounding the world, medical equipment, laboratory diagnostic test kits and infection prevention and control commodities are difficult to come by. Thanks to Jack Ma’s Foundation for their benevolence and reaching out to Africa, Asia and the US. This exposes the world to not being ready for epidemics or pandemics.
According to the Global Health Security Index 2019 report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security and the Economist Intelligence Unit, released last year, for 195 countries states that national health security is fundamentally weak around the world.
It said no nation is fully prepared to handle an epidemic or pandemic. It places the US scoring 83.5%, UK 77.9%, The Netherlands 75.6%, Australia 75.5% and Canada 75.3% in the ‘most prepared’ category. Even US, which is ranked tops is being pummeled by the COVID-19 unconditionally.
Much of Europe, Russia, Middle East, Asia, Central and South America are described by the index as ‘more prepared’ with scores ranging between 66% and 34.3%, while majority of countries ranked ‘least prepared’ are in Africa including Ghana and Asia.
North Korea 17.5%, Somalia 16.6% and Equatorial Guinea 16.2% are listed in the index bottom three. China, which is at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak scored 48.2%. Collectively, the international preparedness is ‘very weak,’ with the overall average score of 40.2%.
Reporting crisis of this magnitude demands cool heads and brazen professionalism of journos highlighting the risks communication and social mobilisation efforts to all. In this era and confusion, the media should be alert and never copy and paste news items from elsewhere without domesticating them. Because one strategy would not work for all situations. One size does not fit all as expressed by President Akufo-Addo.
The media has been prevailed upon to source its news from the official portal www.ghanahealthservice.org/covid-19 for authentic news on COVID-19. The media need to be more relevant in this critical period, reporting with facts and being circumspect in breaking exclusives that could heighten tension. Exclusives are game-changers but in this critical time, in getting those exclusives, journos need to be minded not to fall exclusively.
The media must practice ‘information hygiene’ to help stop falsehood, fake news and avoid raising panic and fear. Media houses must deploy virtual systems to remain more relevant and be on top of their skills.
Social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine are largely impracticable in a number of African settings but being legitimised by the international media. How can a household of husband, wife and three children living in a single-room without bathroom and toilet be asked to self-isolate or quarantine? The media should then domesticate these demands to the realities on the ground, not just copy and paste.
The Ebola era became a success story for Africa after cultural and traditional norms and values were factored into, for example, the disposal of copses and not a wholesale instruction from any institution. The media besides being the principal purveyors of public information, is key in the education of the masses.
The media must up its game on isolation and hygiene tips, community responses and activities, working virtually, public policies, maintaining services and above all amplifying healthcare innovations.
In fact, Ghana and the world should emerge from the pandemic towards becoming robust in taking its destiny in its hands. We need to begin to manufacture our own essentials. This brings into sharp focus the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which is an attempt to harness a single trade market regime for the continent. Let us come out from this crisis, well prepared to build a robust future.
Every physical contact reduced equals many lives protected. Save lives now by going virtual. News outlets and corporate world can take cue. Do not spread fear but give hope with facts.